• Barbara L. Ciccarelli, PhD

Enough with the Learnable Interview Moments

When your rejection precedes your invitation

Video Taping Lecture Talk

Short of spitting on you, some interviewers can leave a lasting impression. There are many kinds of job interviews—freelance, part-time and full-time--to name a few. These interviews can be on the phone, video conference or face to face. They can be led by men or women alone or in groups of 2, 3 or even 8. There are interviews that make no sense and where the interviewee seems to have no control.

I’m sharing this to let you know that sometimes there are so many factors involved that it is not simply about a discussion with an employer and “selling your time for money” nor is it just about telling an interviewer the three steps of George Egbuonu, author of How to Get a Job in Thirty Days or Less: 1. Here’s what I’ve got. 2. Here’s what I will do for you. 3. Here is what I want you to do next for me.

. . .

A client from my online learning company told me about an interview situation where she basically followed this Egbuonu guideline for one specific four round interview process. The commute to this new job would be long and by public transport, but the job role really appealed to her as it was a slight deviation from her normal job role and area of expertise. She was keen on a challenge with the potential to learn a lot.

I know from coaching and personal experience that when you diverge a bit from your area this can cause a certain dynamic with the interviewers whereby you have to justify why someone with your different skillset thinks they can crossover and do their (the interviewers’) job. In my case, the faculty member interviewing me basically said that based on my experience and previous roles, I wasn’t suitable, begging the question why they invited me for an interview in the first place. Curiosity? A mission to get a better sense of the sector’s market?

. . .

In this case, my client met the female interviewer who seemed really nice, but after a few pleasantries the conversation oddly became a comparison between the two of them of the choices they had made in their lives and what they had achieved. This seemed a bit odd to me, and I would say that doesn’t bode well for landing a job. Any sign of confusing boundaries in an interview surely is a negative sign. But at the end of the interview, the interviewer then revealed that they were looking for someone with a lot of energy. When she heard this, my client put her reservations and fears aside and focused on projecting herself as the perfect fit.

The latter is very common in the interview process. Many job applicants are desperate to get a job or change jobs or move up in jobs. It is easy to brush aside the bad signs or warning signals and try to focus on the positive. I know when I was having trouble getting a top job in my field in the Netherlands, with all kinds of hurdles to overcome, nothing could steer me away from a job vacancy.

This has pros and cons. The pros are that you open yourself up to wider experience and possibly more interviews. The cons are that you probably could have avoided some mismatches or bad experiences by having higher selection criteria. Of course, having the latter is very difficult when you have to pay bills and need the rhythm of work life, but then again, seemingly contradictorily, you could have a better outcome.

. . .

The second interview of my client with the same employer was with the manager and a team member. This was also a bit strange, especially when the manager asked for the interviewee’s birth order. When the interviewee revealed some discomfort with the question, the manager’s response was, “we have ways of finding out.” Now that is an ominous comment if I ever heard one and bordering on threatening. I would say then that maybe the interviewee should back out there and then, but the need for a job and the questioning of her own instinctive gut reaction made her stay in the game.

. . .

The next interview with the director seemed more straightforward. She was an older woman and seemed beyond any personality issues; however, she asked the personal issue about whether my client had children. This had come up before for my client in Dutch interviews and apparently was a legitmate question. However, my client told me that it didn’t seem that they were worried about children interfering with a work schedule; rather, they seemed to be looking for an explanation for her long than usual cv. Another warning signal. Still she managed that cut and could prepare for one final interview. The talk.

. . .

This was her fourth visit to this company which wasn’t exactly a convenient commute. All of this investment, and they said it was down to her and just one other person. She spent some time on the talk for which they gave a specific assignment. On the day, she knew right away that something was amiss. Although all the previous interviews were in English as it was an English-speaking position, and she wasn’t fluent in Dutch, the manager greeted her in Dutch and persisted in speaking Dutch throughout the rest of the interview.

Furthermore, they said two other faculty members couldn’t attend, and they would be filming her do her job talk. My client said she was uncomfortable that they were filming her talk because they could use it for other purposes. It all seemed rather strange, and it seemed to her that the decision had already been made, especially as the manager was on his phone through most of her 10 minute presentation.

. . .

Well as you can imagine, she wasn’t hired. The funny thing was that the female interviewer who previously said they were looking for someone with a lot of energy said in the last instance that she had too much energy. I think she was the lucky one in this scenario in terms of escaping this job.

According to Tim Sackett in “4 Rounds of Interviews? It Shows How Screwed Up Your Hiring Process Is,” “If you don’t get an offer after the third round, your percentages of getting an offer falls exponentially for every round after that!” A fourth round of interviews means the interview process is broken. The good news is she found something quite quickly after this.

Within a week following her interview, the company with the four-step interview process posted the same vacancy again on the job sites, suggesting they hadn’t been satisfied with anyone not even the other remaining candidate and, in fact, were probably not happy with themselves. After four interview rounds and refusing to reimburse travel, they still weren’t sure? Sackett says that this suggests just one thing, “Hey, come work for us so we can totally frustrate you with our indecision culture.

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